Doing outdoorsy stuff equates to reading outside, basically. Yeah.

My outdoorsy trip ended being just a whole lot of sitting around the campfire talking and eating. My dad hurt his back so we didn’t do as much hiking and stuff as we normally do. I did do a lot of reading, though and was joined by many an inch worm (they’re actually quite cute one at a time, inching along the page but not so cute when you find one in your hair).

Clockwork by Philip Pullman

Phillip Pullman fiddles with the gears and rachets of a bit of fictional clockwork machinery to get a good story ticking. This is an awesome, slightly spooky little book that comes with curiously eerie black and white illustrations that look like the people in them are fading into the nothingness between the pigments…(artwork by Leonid Gore). There are technically several little stories in this book, but I can’t separate them at all. The first story is about a writer who basically pantzies it for the thrill of making stories up in front of drunk audiences that are eager for a good scare. There’s also a burned out and bitter apprentice clockmaker who has to come up with something amazing as his final test before his official induction into the clockworker’s guild. There’s a boy with certain strange problems and a girl who’s kind enough to help him. Somehow, by careful tweaking of pendulums and suspension springs and winding squares, Phillip Pullman links them together to make a delightfully suspenseful and cutsey creepy read.

“I was looking at one of the old clocks in the Science Museum in London one day, and I thought it would be fun to try and write a story in which one part turning this way connected to another part and made it turn that way, like cogwheels of a clock. And when it was all fitted closely together, I could wind it up and set it going.”

Pretty neat how it all works out. This one can be read in less than one hour but leaves lots of think about, particularly the nature of malfunctioning clockwork devices and the inevitable winding down of such things. Gak! I shouldn’t relate so much to a certain clockwork character…

Once upon a time (when time ran by clockwork) a strange event took place in a little German town. Actually, it was a series of events, all fitting together like the parts of a clock, and although each person saw a different part, no one saw the whole of it; but here it is, as well as I can tell it.

After that intro I was all ready to snuggle down with this book half-wishing I owned a grandfather clock.

(Rating: 4 black cats)

 

Mio My Son and The Brothers LionHeart by Astrid Lindgren (artwork by Ilon Wikland)

           There’s a whole world of comfort in reading Astrid Lindgren books. Bad things happen, but good and kindness and courage always win. ALWAYS. And bad dudes get pulverized by their own meanness.

Mio My Son is about a boy, Karl, who one day disappears from the quiet Stockholm neighbourhood where he lived with his couldn’t-care-less foster parents. This story could become very sad and pathetic from there – the kid’s all alone in a park, and nobody cares enough about him to go looking for him! – but instead, it becomes a grand adventure where everyone who matters is looking for him and have been waiting for him to return for years. It all starts when a nice lady asks him to run and do a small errand for her – deliver a card to a King in Farawayland! Karl gladly goes and one thing leads to another and he finds himself in this beautiful new place, where Fathers are loving and children ride ponies and play all day with awesome friends and eat glorious tasty food. But, just like all the other Astrid Lindgren books, things that appear perfect on day one don’t stay that way for long. Either the main character gets restless or he can’t ignore the secret unhappiness and nervousness of the folk around him. In this one, there’s some BIG evil that requires Karl to be braver than he ever thought he could be.

Did you listen to the radio on the fifteenth of October last year? Did you hear them asking for news of a boy who had disappeared? This is what they said: –

“The stockholm police are looking for nine-year-old Karl Anders Nilsson who has been missing from his home at Thirteen North Street since six p.m. on the day before yesterday. Karl Anders Nilsson has fair hair and blue eyes and at the time of his disappearance was wearing brown shorts, gray pullover, and a small red cap. Will anyone who can give information as to his whereabouts please communicate with the police?”

That is what they said. But no information was ever given about Karl Anders Nilsson. He disappeared completely, no one knew where. Nobody knows except me, for I am Karl Anders Nilsson.

(Rating: 4.5 whispering wells)

The Brothers LionHeart is a pretty unique story. It’s about a kid, also named Karl, who has a sickly disposition and is constantly bedridden. His older brother, Jonathan, however, is everything a brother could be. Jonathan looks like a little prince and behaves like an angel. Everyone loves Jonathan and Karl looks up to his older brother so much! When Karl hears one day that his sickness may mean that he will die young, Jonathan comforts him by telling him of a magical land far away from earth – called Nangiyala, a beautiful place full of cherry blossoms and idyllic farms, where people still sit around campfires and tell each other sagas. Jonathan paints such a lovely picture of Nangiyala that Karl is almost convinced it wouldn’t be so bad to die, the only thing is he would be apart from Jonathan, which he could never bear. Again, you might think the story gets really dark and sad, but that’s not the Lindgren way. This is where the fun and adventures begin, and big epic battles against terrible evils must be fought and small children must be brave. I really like this book – it just makes me feel so warm inside. The ending in particular was quite surprising, I don’t know exactly what to make of it, but the bond between the two brothers was very touching.

Now I’m going to tell you about my brother. My brother, Jonathan Lionheart, is the person I want to tell you about. I think it’s almost like a saga, and just a very little like a ghost story, and yet every word is true; though Jonathan and I are probably the only people who know that.

Jonathan’s name wasn’t Lionheart from the start. His surname was Lion, just like Mother’s and mine. Jonathan Lion was his name. My name is Karl Lion and Mother’s is Sigrid Lion. Father was Axel Lion, but he went to sea and we have never heard from him since.

But what I was going to tell you was how it came about that my brother Jonathan became Jonathan Lionheart, and all the strange things that happened after that.

Jonathan knew that I was soon going to die. I think everyone knew except for me. They knew at school, too, because I was away most of the time, coughing and always being ill. For the last six months, I haven’t been able to go to school at all. All the ladies Mother sews dresses for knew it, too, and it was one of them who was talking to Mother about it when I happened to hear, although I wasn’t meant to. They thought I was asleep. But I was just lying there with my eyes closed. And I went on lying there like that, because I didn’t want them to see that I had heard that terrible thing – that I was soon going to die.

I was sad, of course, and terribly afraid, and I didn’t want Mother to see that. But I talked to Jonathan about it, when he came home.

“Did you know I was going to die?” I said, and I wept.

Jonathan thought for a moment. Perhaps he didn’t really want to answer, but in the end he said:

“Yes, I know.”

Then I cried even more.

“How can things be so terrible,” I asked. “How can things be so terrible that some people have to die, when they’re not even ten years old?”

“You know, Rusky, I don’t think it’s that terrible,’ said Jonathan. “I think you’ll have a marvellous time.”

“Marvellous,” I said. “Is it marvellous to lie under the ground and be dead?”

“Oh,” said Jonathan. “It’s only your shell that lies there, you know? You yourself fly away somewhere quite different.”

“Where?” I asked, because I could hardly believe him.

“To Nangiyala,” he said.

To Nangiyala – he just threw out the word as if it were something everyone in the world knew. But at the time, I had never heard it mentioned before.

“Nangiyala?” I said. “Where’s that?”

(Rating: 4.5 Tengilmen)

I always almost want to cry whilst reading an Astrid Lindgren book but at the same time feel loved and taken care of and off dreaming nostalgically of childhood. Kind of gives me the same vibes as that Shel Silverstein poem about ” The Giving Tree”…

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3 comments

  1. The best kind of camping trip is the kind of camping trip where you do lots of reading and not as much outdoorsy stuff. At least in my opinion. I enjoy going canoeing if the weather’s coolish, but mostly I like to sit around, read my book, and have my friends-and-relations cook me delicious dinner.

  2. Jenny – Haha, I didn’t do any canoeing on this trip 😦 But yeah, it was pretty much an excuse to sit around reading and eating or zoning out whilst staring at the fire. We had lots of food within arm reaching distance…I was terribly lazy on this trip 😛

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